Interviews are an integral part of any recruitment process and play a pivotal role in the assessment of a candidate. It goes without saying that it takes a lot from both sides to commit to and be part of an interview. Interviewees usually have to spare half a day atleast to prepare, commute and be there, and even perhaps wait for some time at the interview venue. At PML, the commute maybe from Islamabad or even Lahore which might then become a day long commitment.
From the Lab’s perspective, it takes a lot to commit to what could often be several days of interviews, by a panel of mostly senior folks. This also means that the PI and senior people and all their direct reports will have no other work done other than these interviews! It also takes a lot of energy, commitment and patience to give due time and space and a fair chance to each candidate to express themselves.
We asked our PI on what could the interviewee do to make best use of this chance, and make it an effort that is worth the time of both sides. This is what we got back:
First of all congratulations on making the cut. If you have an interview invite, it certainly means that you had something on your CV or in your applications that the panel liked and they would like to know more from you, about you. Here are five things you need to keep in mind:
Prepare. Its only polite and respectful that you do your homework. Do some desk research. Read what the Lab is about and what its up to. Social media channels usually provide a good vibe about any organization and also what it has been up to lately. This will give you the context that your interviews are being held in and should get you well informed. Next, read and ask around and learn more about the position that you have applied for (that is if you still don’t know much). You must have someone have in your network who works there. Or maybe you know someone who knows someone. Social networks are a good way to map around. Finally, try and attend events at the Lab. This will give you an even better feel of what it does and what sort of people will be your mates. You also get a chance to meet them in person and ask questions.
Certificates are not experiences. Some people like to produce stacks of documents or certificates. Some give more credence to pieces of paper than the actual skills it says on that paper. Make sure you are able to communicate your experiences and demonstrate some knowledge about and around that. Bring a portfolio or a prototype instead and prove you have actually done stuff!
Know your stuff. At least the ones you wrote on your CV. This sounds weird, but some people do show up knowing almost nothing about the hobby they wrote about or their favorite subject or a skill in the lab. Keep your CVs clean in the first place. And once you have made any claim, make sure you flick though your notes of textbook to refresh your mind. Its good to refresh.
Demonstrate your potential. It’s always good to 1) share what you think can be valuable to the lab, 2) back it up by demonstrating how much you know about it. Well you won’t be able to pull something off there, but you can always talk about projects you have undertaken, at university or at home (DIY work is even cooler!) or a placement you had in a summer break anywhere, or a MOOC you undertook on one of the online platforms. Talk about them. If it doesn’t come up, you can be upfront and ask for a minute to talk about how cool that was.
Wear our shoes. The interviewers are human beings too. They are also in a tight spot, time wise especially. They have to make the best use of the 8-15 minutes they have with you. Listen to their questions carefully. Give quick and crisp answers. Don’t go on and on. Even worse are people who end up arguing. That only hurts you since little time would be left to ask the questions they wanted to ask you, leaving them with incomplete information. Don’t pass judgements either. Refrain from political comments. Be on time. Dress well and bring some energy to the room. Bring your best self to the interview.
Refrain from ‘that’ phone call. This sounds absurd but we have to say this. Some people find it necessary to get someone call any of the panelist. That’s the worse thing you can do at the Lab. It means so many bad things and makes it very difficult for you to come back. Mainly, it means 1) you don’t have the confidence in your capabilities, 2) it implies that the panelist will listen to whoever calls and will give you an unfair advantage, and 3) it means our recruitment process is business as usual and has no respect for merit. Can you look into the eyes and say this to any of the interviewer yourself?